Chris Hutchens loves his golf.
He loves the atmosphere, he loves the game, and he loves the people involved with it.
On Tuesday, he loved qualifying for the 23rd annual Kansas Open at Alvamar with a score of 73, one stroke behind the leaders.
``You bet,'' said Hutchens, a 1986 graduate of Kansas University, where he played on the golf team. ``I kind of went in not expecting to do anything.''
Low expectations breeded good results for Hutchens, an insurance salesman at Farm Bureau.
``Usually I play several tournaments a summer, but it's been kind of hard this summer with work,'' he said. ``One thing I miss is just being around the tournament atmosphere all the time. Even if I don't play, I like hearing all the golf talk.''
``You know, those guys that play all the time,'' he said with just a hint of envy. ``It seems like they've always got something to talk about. The technology of the clubs or what's the best driver.
``When you're in the office, you're not talking golf, so it's nice to hear what's out there.''
Another thing Hutchens likes about golf is the chance to spend a few hours with whomever he's paired with.
``I just love being out there for three or four hours, you kind of get to know somebody,'' he said. ``When you spend that much time with them, shoot, it's like you're good friends.''
Dave Tacha, Tim Mahaffy, and Jim Gates all shot a 72 to lead the qualifiers. J.T. Symons joined Hutchens and Tacha as the only amateur qualifiers from Lawrence.
Gates will be a sophomore on KU's golf team this fall.
``I've been struggling a little bit coming into this,'' he said. ``It's just one round, you hope (it's a sign), but who knows?''
This is the first year Gates has entered the Kansas Open. In the past, the Heart of America tournament has been held at the same time, but this year's schedule makes it possible for Gates to play in both.
Playing in a lot of tournaments is something KU golf coach Ross Randall likes to see of his players.
``He will encourage going to the biggest tournaments,'' Gates said. ``He wants us to play in some fun ones so we don't grind too much in the summer. He wants you to find out how much you enjoy playing.''
For that, Gates has a simple answer.
``I enjoy it when I play well,'' he said. ``It's all a learning process, but it's been fun.''
In addition to working on his game, Gates has worked at the Eagle Bend Pro Shop. The course's front nine recently opened and the back nine will be ready in late August or early September.
``I like it a lot,'' Gates said. ``The back nine will be awesome.''